The Human Impact

Burmese journalist beseeches brethren: Stop with the Muslim hate speech

The slight, soft-spoken woman onstage called on the media and the rest of the country to let go of narrow-minded nationalism.

“This is a time to fight for democratisation. We have to respect each and every ethnic (group) as a human being,” beseeched Mon Mon Myat, whose meek bearing veils her ferocity as a powerful freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.

It was refreshing to hear these words in a public forum in Myanmar because – let’s face it – such sentiments have been sorely lacking.

Since religious conflict erupted June 2012, killing at least 240 people and displacing more than 140,000, mostly Muslims, Myanmar has been engulfed in hate speech.

Vitriolic and inflammatory comments targeting Muslims, who make up a small fraction of the country, have become worryingly common on blogs, web forums and Facebook pages. Internet access is low – some estimates say only 0.2 percent of the population is online – but young people, as well as a large Burmese diaspora worldwide, are increasingly using social media to share news and opinions.

Bullied, ridiculed, ignored, Asia transgenders step up fight for rights

Natt Kraipet grew up knowing she was a woman in a man’s body. She didn’t like wearing the compulsory school uniform for boys in Thailand and spent her school days being bullied by her peers.

“When students are put into groups according to gender, the boys would yell at me to join the girls. I was sexually harassed – they touched my legs, bottom or face or hit me on my back or head,” she said.

“I couldn’t really tell my teachers or my parents because I was afraid of being judged and punished. Sometimes I felt bullied by the teachers themselves because they would say it was just teasing among the children. It wasn’t teasing,” recalled Natt, now a coordinator with the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN).

Public fury over gang-rape in India: Let’s keep up the pressure

So perhaps at last India has woken up to the daily abuse that its girls and women face.

Sunday night’s horrific rape where a 23-year-old woman was beaten and gang-raped on a bus as it drove through the streets of New Delhi has rightly outraged the entire nation.

In a country where news reports of sexual violence against girls and women are commonplace, yet provoke little public reaction, the events over the last four days have been unusual but welcome.

Malala: An icon for millions of girls who want to learn

When it happened two months ago, it shocked the world. Masked Taliban gunmen stopped a school bus filled with children in northwestern Pakistan, boarded it and shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck as she sat in the bus with her friends.

Her crime? She was a campaigner for the right of girls to go to school — an act strictly forbidden by Taliban militants who are still active in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

This was her punishment for defying their edicts, the Taliban had said.

Fortunately, Malala survived and her story — as well as her determination to continue to fight for girls to go to school despite the threat of death — has captivated the world and made her into an international icon for girls’ education.

Dial-a-maid, get-a-slave in middle class India

When I arrived in India some years back as a single mother and full-time journalist, there was one thing I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about – finding domestic help.

Maids, nannies, drivers, cooks and cleaners are ten-a-penny amongst the urban middle classes here.

In New Delhi’s neighbourhoods, for example, most families employ full- or part-time help, who do everything from feeding and bathing babies and cooking family meals to sweeping and washing floors.

Congolese migrants in Angola abused during expulsions -HRW

Migrant women and girls in Angola who lack adequate legal documents have been raped and sexually exploited during expulsions carried out by Angolan security forces, a human rights group said.

Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report – “’If You Come Back We Will Kill You’: Sexual Violence and Other Abuses against Congolese Migrants during Expulsions from Angola” – denounced sexual violence, children being forced to witness such abuses, arbitrary beatings and other rights violations suffered by such Congolese migrants in detention centres in Angola.

Detainees were kept in overcrowded cells with no basic sanitation systems and with little food or clean water to drink and wash, the report added.

Sri Lanka’s war-traumatised at risk as aid group leaves?

It was with a heavy heart I read the press release this morning.

A desperately needed aid programme run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) – in English, Doctors without Borders – in Sri Lanka’s war-torn north has shut down after only 18 months of operation.

I had visited the project last September and I must say what MSF was giving was no ordinary aid.

It was not distributing food to survivors of the Indian Ocean island’s almost three-decade long conflict. Nor was it reconstructing the shelled and bullet-ridden homes, schools and hospitals of Kilinochchi district.

Invest in women in conflict zones to promote change

Where would you put your money as an investor? A leading campaigner against gender-based violence says there is only one answer – invest it in women in conflict zones.

“Conflict zones have the biggest potential for change,” Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women, told delegates at the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford last week.

“If I were an investor I’d invest in conflict zones and women who live there,” said Ensler, author of the award-winning play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

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